Friday, July 14, 2006

Running For The Pope: Two Americans in Rome

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Sue, known to blogging pals as "Desparate", has the renowned DIH blog besides writing occasionally for the really renowned NRO. This little gem of a tale surfaced after diligent research during a 90+ degree day during a slow news month around here. It is well worth your time.

[snip] A guard let us in the big wooden gate. In the courtyard some black-suited Italian met us and led us inside the palace, where we were left in the hands of a tiny Vietnamese monsignor. He said something that no doubt sounded to him like “buon giorno,” and we said something that sounded like “buon giorno,” to us. Then he took off. Fast.

He scurried down the long hallways. The floors of the palace are blindingly polished marble, and as we learned within a couple seconds, extremely slippery. Now Richard in his solid leather soles was having just as much difficulty as I. Our choices seemed few and all bad: race after the little Vietnamese and fall on our rear ends in the papal palace, or lag behind and become lost in the labyrinth, miss our chance to meet the pope, and disappoint our young friend waiting for us to do our sacramental duty only to surface hours later as accused terrorists or, even more shameful, journalists.

The little monsignor made a compromise of sorts. He would race to the end of a hallway until reaching a corner at which he would pause and look back at us beseechingly. We would race after him as fast as we dared until we had just caught up. Then he would smile, stretch out his hand, and bow and say "prego," pointing for us to go ahead. We would reply "grazie," imagining we must be near our destination, and walk on in a more dignified manner. Then he would start running again, leaving us far behind. Corner. Stop. “Prego.” Point. “Grazie.” Walk in dignified manner. Run. Corner. Stop. “Prego.” Point “Grazie.” Walk in dignified manner. Run. This was repeated so many times in that old 17th-century palace that we began to get a little punch drunk, the way you feel when you've been making left turns around a parking lot too long looking for an empty space. By now the walking bit had dropped out entirely and it was more like: Run fast (little monsignor). Run slow (Vigilantes). Stop and wait. (little monsignor again). Slow and nod while passing by (us). “Prego.” Point. “Grazie.” (Us, on the fly) And run. Which is how, after chasing him down I don't know how many hallways and seeing the little priest do the prego-point one last time, we turned yet another corner, careened into the tiny chapel, and skidded to a halt just short of tripping over the pope, on his knees, deep in prayer.

We took a seat in one of the pews, carefully. [snip] You need to read all of this one!
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